Friday, July 25, 2014

Top Cop or Criminal?
TPJ Files Complaint Against Ken Paxton

TPJ has filed a criminal complaint with the Travis County District Attorney against State Senator and Attorney General candidate Ken Paxton. The complaint, filed on July 18, seeks a formal investigation into allegations that Paxton committed one or more felonies when, over several years, he failed to register as an investment adviser representative of Mowery Capital Management as the state securities law requires. Paxton previously admitted to state regulators that he solicited clients and was compensated for his services when he was not a registered agent. Paxton also admitted hiding the income he received on his state personal financial disclosures.

TPJ's complaint letter can be found here.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Ethics Commission Fines Empower Texans' Sullivan

The Texas Ethics Commission ordered Michael Quinn Sullivan, leader of the conservative advocacy group Empower Texans, to pay a $10,000 fine on Monday for failing to register as a lobbyist in 2010 and 2011.

The order is the culmination of a two-year investigation by the Ethics Commission into Sullivan’s political activity, stemming from a 2012 complaint filed by Republican state Reps. Jim Keffer of Eastland and Vicki Truitt of Keller alleging that Sullivan acted as an unregistered lobbyist and that Empower Texans failed to file as a PAC. The second complaint is being treated separately by the Ethics Commission.

“The evidence revealed that part of Mr. Sullivan’s regular employment involved making direct contact with members of the Texas Legislature and their staffs to influence the outcome of bills, nominations and other matters that were subject to legislative action,” Ethics Commission Chairman Jim Clancy wrote in the unanimous order. “Accordingly, Texas law required him to register as a lobbyist.”

Joe Nixon, Sullivan's attorney, said by phone that they were "pleased the Ethics Commission finally, after almost 30 months of inactivity, issued a final ruling."

"It is our intent to appeal the ruling to the district court where it will be heard 'de novo' meaning new from the beginning," he added. "The commission knows that its ruling will have no permanent effect, and we are excited to be in a court of law where the rules of evidence and procedure will predominate."

Sullivan had been fighting the investigation, arguing that his activities with Empower Texans should be viewed as journalism and thus exempt from the lobbyist registration requirements. The commission determined that Sullivan's defense was "baseless," pointing to dozens of communications between Sullivan and lawmakers related to the outcome of pending legislation.

"Advocacy is indisputably legal, but being paid to directly advocate without registering as a lobbyist is not,” Clancy wrote. “The communications reviewed by the commission advocate passage or defeat of specific legislative action on behalf of a special interest group. Regardless of political orientation or message, no paid advocate who engages in direct communications with Texas legislators is above the disclosure laws of the state of Texas.”

The commission also accused Sullivan of having "destroyed or lost thousands of emails sent to members of the Legislature during 2010 and 2011, despite having received written requests for such information in 2012." Sullivan has denied destroying any documents.

Sullivan has decried the Ethics Commission investigation as a "witch hunt" instigated by "cronies" of House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican who Sullivan has long criticized as insufficiently conservative to lead the chamber.

“The commission hasn’t yet decided exactly what it is I do that’s illegal, but they have decided I must be found guilty of something,” Sullivan wrote in an email to supporters last month. “They want to define me as an ‘illegal lobbyist’ because I exercise my First Amendment rights as the head of Texans for Fiscal Responsibility: I write about the goings on in the legislature and publicize a rating of how fiscally responsible (or irresponsible!) legislators are with your money.”
The commission is made up of eight members, four appointed by the governor, two appointed by the lieutenant governor and two appointed by the speaker of the House.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at http://www.texastribune.org/2014/07/21/ethics-commission-slaps-conservative-activist-1000/.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

TPJ Urges Top Court to Reinstate DeLay Conviction

TPJ filed an amicus brief with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals today urging them to reinstate Tom DeLay's convictions for criminal conspiracy and money laundering. The top court will review the Third Court of Appeals ruling that overturned DeLay's convictions. DeLay was sentenced to three years in prison and five years probation for the crimes. The high court hearing is scheduled for June 18.
Read the full TPJ press release.
Read the TPJ Amicus Brief.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lobby Watch: New Big Donor
Compounds Greg Abbott’s Drug Problems

The $350,000 that Richie Ray recently gave to Abbott transformed a relatively obscure compounding pharmacist into one of the top funders of Texas' gubernatorial race. Abbott has been deeply involved in two controversies surrounding Ray's lightly regulated industry. The attorney general wields enforcement powers over compounders who supplied patients with fatally infected drugs. Meanwhile, different divisions of Abbott's office have taken conflicting positions on whether or not Texas must identify compounders who supply pentobarbital for state executions.

Lobby Watch explores the new big donor compounding Abbott's drug problems.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Lobby Watch: Wyly Brothers Securities Scam Armed Texas GOP

Federal jurors recently found the Wyly brothers of Dallas guilty of massive securities fraud. Fruits of their fraud appear to have trickled down to Texas politicians. The brothers contributed $1.2 million to Texas politicians and PACs since 2000.

Lobby Watch lists the political beneficiaries of these fraternal defrauders.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Gov. Rick Perry asks to enter
grand jury courtroom through back door

The Austin American-Statesman reports that in an ironic twist Governor Rick Perry has asked District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg if he can sneak through her office to enter the grand jury room out of the view of the media. Perry and/or his staff are expected to testify on whether the Governor violated the law when he threatened to withhold her budget if she did not give up her office.

Read the Austin American-Statesman story.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Lobby Watch:
Empower Texans Dominates Texas Dark Money Spending

Entities that do not identify contributors reported $912,339 in Texas political expenditures so far this cycle. Empower Texans--which targets Speaker Joe Straus and other relatively moderate Republicans--accounted for 57 percent of all direct campaign spending. Empower operates a dark-money non-profit as well as a transparent PAC. Empower's total $2.3 million in political spending so far this cycle quintuples what it spent in the entire 2012 cycle. This time, however, Empower is moving most of its money through its PAC. This may suggest that its dark-money contributors have been spooked by the Texas Ethics Commission's probe of Empower.

Read the enlightening Lobby Watch.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Perry offers to DA continued after veto, insiders say

The walls around Governor Perry appear to be crumbling as the Special Prosecutor's investigation into bribery allegations continues. As reported in the Texas Tribune, sources now say that Perry made offers to restore funding to the Travis County DA after his June 14 veto if Rosemary Lehmberg would resign.
Read the Tribune story: Sources: Perry Offered to Restore Vetoed Funding if DA Resigned

Monday, April 21, 2014

TPJ Perry Complaint Heats Up

Recent media coverage of TPJ's complaint against Governor Perry.

Investigation of Gov. Perry Picks Up Momentum
By Tony Plohetski, Austin-American Statesman

Probe Could Complicate Rick Perry's Prospects
By Paul Weber, AP

Grand jury considers whether Gov. Rick Perry went too far in seeking DA's ouster
By Christy Hoppe, Dallas Morning News

Everything you need to know about Rick Perry's newest scandal
By Christopher Hooks, Texas Observer

Friday, April 18, 2014

Predatory dark money corrupted Utah — is Texas Next?

Op-Ed by TPJ's Andrew Wheat on the corrupting nature of dark money is published by the San Antonio Express News.

Read the op-ed at the San Antonio Express News.